Thursday, June 30, 2005

European Community legislation

Well, I heard back from Historic Scotland concerning that job I was so excited about:

"Unfortunately as Civil Service posts are classified as 'Public Service' under European Community legislation, applicants for these posts must be British or Commonwealth citizens. Therefore I am afraid we cannot consider your application."

Under European Community legislation? I could understand if the British government had made the regulation, but the EU? This means countries like France and Germany, whose economies are strangled by their rampant workers unions and failed socialistic policies, have rammed through legislation protecting their precious civil service jobs from those blasted Auslanders because their wonderful workers' paradise has a normal unemployment rate in excess of ten percent. Yippy skip.

What’s worse is that I would qualify if I were a British Commonwealth citizen. I could accept this if it was Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but it’s not. Now despite the fact that the US and Britain are two of the closest allies in the world or that I am a native English-speaker of British-descent and married to a British subject with a work permit for which I spend an exorbitant sum, I still take a back seat on the bus to citizens of the following countries:

Antigua and Barbuda

New Zealand


New Guinea

St Kitts and Nevis
St Vincent and the Grenadines


Sierra Leone


Solomon Islands

Sri Lanka




Trinidad and Tobago



United Kingdom


Western Samoa



Is there anyone out there that can even place Kiribati or Seychelles on a map? We really need to form an Anglo-American treaty organization. Get Britain out of Europe and into the Anglo-American world!

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

David Souterus Augustus?

Once upon a time, the Roman Emperor Augustus decided to reshape Rome. He would later declare that he found it a city of brick and left it a city of marble. Rome had outgrown its old forum by the time of Augustus, a location that also carried too many associations with the old republic. So he rebuilt it on a grand scale, surrounding it with an enormous wall to protect it from fire. But he ran into a problem. A little old lady’s house stood in the way of the proposed project, and she refused to sell her house. The emperor could well have seized her house in the name of the public good, but the great statesman did not. He added another turn in the wall; her house was spared, standing for centuries as a testament to the magnanimity of Augustus.

Two thousand years later, another 87-year-old lady was faced with a similar eviction. This time, the city of New London, CT wished to destroy the house in which she was born in order to develop their coastal district. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), the nation’s chief lawmakers, ruled in Kelo vs. City of New London that government has the power to seize private citizens’ property for “economic redevelopment” through eminent domain. This means that the government can force you to sell your home in order to redistribute it to another private citizen or group if it be to the fiscal advantage of the government…and we are fighting against tyranny and oppression abroad? Typically, this was a 5-4 ruling by the five justices who haven’t actually read the Constitution or the Founding Fathers but instead pay attention to international law and their own personal fancies. Of course once one accepts the principles behind wealth redistribution, is property redistribution all that different? The need for strict constructionist judges is apparent.

Enter Logan Darrow Clements. The CEO of Freestar Media has entered a request for the city of Weare, New Hampshire to bulldoze Justice David Souter’s home in order to build ‘The Lost Liberty Hotel’, featuring the ‘Just Desserts Café’ and a museum featuring an exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Guests will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's ‘Atlas Shrugged.’

I glanced around the internet, and found the local authorities in Weare, NH capable of processing Mr. Clements request. If you wish to contact them, you may do so here:

Town of Weare Building Department

Wearne, N.H. Board of Selectmen

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

You might be a Blueneck.

There are a lot of misconceptions about California. A lot of people think everyone from California is a blueneck. Well I’ve been all over the place and there are bluenecks everywhere you go. The problem is a lot of people just don’t know if they are a blueneck or not so I came up with a test to help people out:

-If you have ever purchased artwork by a dead chimpanzee, you might be a blueneck.
-If you have multiple piercings, none of which are visible in public, you might be a blueneck.
-If you have the same piercings that are visible in public, you might be a blueneck.
-If you make six figures and cannot afford a house, you might be a blueneck.
-If you go to Starbucks or Barnes and Noble to complain about greedy, multi-national corporations, you might be a blueneck.
-If you can determine the national origins of your coffee, you might be a blueneck.
-If your car insurance exceeds your mortgage payment, you might be a blueneck.
-If you are happy to find another person who speaks English in your hometown, you might be a blueneck.
-If you are angry to find a person who speaks English in your hometown, you might be a blueneck.
-If you are a male who goes to a hairdresser, you might be a blueneck.
-If you own a Geo Metro with a Darwin fish on the back, you might be a blueneck.
-If you have ever taken off your sandals because you felt they were too formal, you might be a blueneck.
-If you think that pot should be legal, you might be a blueneck.
-If you think that pot is legal, you might be a blueneck.
-If you have ever been to a baby shower for two mothers and one child, you might be a blueneck.
-If you have not yet been mugged, you might still be a blueneck.
-If you have ever purchased a Che Guevara T-shirt made in a third world sweatshop, you might be a blueneck.
-If you think “The Passion of the Christ” is a romance movie, you might be a blueneck.
-If you have ever been confused with a tropical fish, you might be a blueneck.
-If you believe that living in sin means not using your recycling barrel, you might be a blueneck.

True, but not necessarily funny:

-If you believe gender is a social construct, you might be a blueneck.
-If you believe the ‘facts’ in ‘The Da Vinci Code’, you might be a blueneck.
-If you believe rats have rights and babies have none, you might be a blueneck.
-If you regularly use French words greater than four letters, you might be a blueneck.
-If Michael Moore comes to town and your first thought is not to buy stock in the local doughnut store, you might be a blueneck.
-If you believe that diversity is what occurs when a group of people all look different but think the same, you might be a blueneck.
-If you are glad that ‘Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms’ is a government agency and not a convenience store, you might be a blueneck.
-If you believe that the federal government should distribute Korans and support prayer on public property for a fanatical group of zealots sworn to kill American civilians but should always and everywhere prohibit any connection whatsoever with the faith of the majority of God-fearing, patriotic Americans here at home, you might be a blueneck.
-If you fear the US may win in war, you might be a blueneck.
-If you believe that conflicts between sovereign entities can be illegal, you might be a blueneck.
-If you have ever compared American soldiers with the Nazis, you might be a blueneck.
-If you believe that God is dead, you might be a blueneck.
-If you promote evolution as a means of disproving the existence of God but discount its necessary implications for human individuals and societies, you might be a blueneck.
-If you believe that contradictory claims to absolute truth can be equally true, you might be a blueneck.
-If you would jump out of an airplane with a parachute that successfully opened 85-97% of the time, you might be a blueneck.
-If you would do the same with a condom, you might be a blueneck.
-If you believe in ‘accidental’ pregnancies, you might be a blueneck.
-If you don’t understand why abstinence works, you might be a blueneck.
-If you think that morality can be defined by individual opinion, you might be a blueneck.
-If the word ‘evil’, ‘sin’, ‘vice’, or ‘virtue’ causes you discomfort, you might be a blueneck.
-If you can’t use a ballot properly, you might be a blueneck.
-If you have recently immigrated to Canada, you might be a blueneck, eh?
-If you have ever bragged about voting for something before voting against it, you might be a blueneck.
-If you believe that other people should pay high taxes, you might be a blueneck.
-If you believe that you can help the poor by destroying the rich, you might be a blueneck.
-If you fear your country but love your government, you might be a blueneck.
-If you think a republic that promotes common decency and basic moral principles is a theocracy, you might be a blueneck.
-If you believe that freedom can be imposed, you might be a blueneck.
-If you confuse a right with an entitlement, you might be a blueneck.
-If you believe that others are ultimately responsible for your position in life, you might be a blueneck.
-If you have never read the Constitution, you might be a blueneck.
-If you don’t know the meaning of ‘keep’, ‘bear’, or ‘infringed’, you might be a blueneck.
-If you don’t know what the meaning of ‘is’ is, you might be a blueneck.
-If you believe in evolution but view the world as a static and fragile balance capable of unravelling at the slightest change, you might be a blueneck.
-If you believe that CO2 emissions are destroying the Earth yet still drive a car and take hot showers, you might be a blueneck.
-If you believe hypocrisy is the only vice, you might be a blueneck.
-If you avoid hypocrisy by refusing to make any moral judgements, you might be a blueneck.
-If you think you can spell ‘unethical’ without ‘UN” , you might be a blueneck.
-If you have ever threatened a fifteenth non-binding resolution, you might be a blueneck.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

National Healthscare

It is not uncommon for Americans to be dissatisfied with their healthcare system and there are many improvements which need to be implemented. One of the proposals has been to create a national healthcare system or some other plan to nationalize the healthcare industry. With Hillary's impending White House bid, such a proposal is worth revisiting.

The United Kingdom created such a system following WWII. Proponents of nationalization cite universal access to care as one of the chief benefits of government-run healthcare. The problem is that patients often have merely universal access to a waiting list. A couple months ago I registered with the local GP. As part of the application process and examination, I mentioned that my knees had been giving me some problems from jogging. The doctor offered to refer me to a specialist, stating that I needed to get on the list now because it would take a while. I consented, and it wasn't until about a week ago that I finally got this letter:

Dear Mr. Renfro

We have received a letter from your GP requesting an outpatient appointment for you to see ____ in Orthopaedic Surgery.

A consultant has reviewed your referral letter and we have been asked to make you a non-urgent appointment. The current waiting time for this kind of appointment is approximately 7 months from the date of this letter. To ensure that outpatient waiting times are kept to a minimum and clinics are used effectively we now book patient appointments by phone no more than 5 weeks prior to the clinic.

We will write to you again 5 weeks before your appointment is due, asking you to phone us. We can then arrange a convenient date for you to see the consultant, or a member of their team. As we will need to write to you again about your appointment, please remember to phone us if your address or phone number change.

Should your condition worsen while you are waiting for you appointment, please inform you GP.

Also, if you no longer wish to attend this hospital appointment, please phone us. We will then remove your name from the waiting list....

Yours Sincerely,

Patient Appointment Centre Officer

Seven months to have a specialist take a look at my knee?! I could have gotten a new liver in that time in the US!

While it is true that the NHS probably offers better coverage for the poorest in Society who would have no coverage except for State programs for kids and guaranteed emergency room care, it is decidedly worse for the middle and upper classes. The rich must first pay more than their share of the NHS cost, and once they have finished paying that they get to pay for their own private insurance so they can actually get efficient healthcare when they need it. As for the middle class, most of them can't afford private insurance so they are stuck on a waiting list somewhere. It is not uncommon for patients needing surgery to either go private or pay for it themselves or to go to the continent for care. Even with that said, people have become dependent upon the NHS as is always the case with government programs. One of the principal fears Brits have when they consider relocating to the United States is the lack of nationalized healthcare. Who will look after them? How would they cope with independence? How will I cope with dependence?

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Friday, June 17, 2005

Warming, Schmarming: Why the world is not coming to an end.

During a recent hike with a friend in the Highlands we got into a discussion about climate change and global warming. He was quite adamant that man’s carbon dioxide output was endangering the entire planet would lead to significant warming and/or climate change – essentially what we hear in the mainstream press about melting glaciers, rising sea levels, increased hurricanes and floods, Australia burning up while Britain freezes. But is this Doomsday scenario correct? While even the mainstream press was willing to concede that the last Hollywood blockbuster disaster film went a bit over the top, how realistic are even the more moderate Kyoto crowd? The answer, I think, is not very.

I have looked into the issue of global warming before, but this weekend’s discussion renewed my interest in the subject. Here are some of the things which I have found:

1) The Earth’s climate has always and will always fluctuate. The main trend in the last several hundred years has been a slight warming. This is nothing about which to worry. Although the Earth has seen major climatic changes such as ice ages and the like, the chances of one of these dramatic events occurring during our lifetime is minute, as is the chances the Earth will be hit by a meteorite or Yellowstone National Park exploding. In the last few thousand years the world was warm during the heyday of the Roman empire, cooled during the early mediaeval period, warmed significantly during the High Middle Ages (Vikings were able to farm and raise cattle on Greenland) or the Mediaeval Warm Period, then cooled again during the Little Ice Age from 1350 to about 1860, and has warmed ever since. Actually the warmest year recently was 1998, in which the powerful El Nino placed large amounts of water vapor in the air. Since then, temperatures have actually decreased.

Global Temperature (last 1,000 Years)

2) The study of the Earth’s climate is still relatively new and far from comprehensive. There are millions of variables involved, and scientists are only really beginning to understand the most basic factors such as solar radiation, ocean currents, and water vapor. Recent studies, particularly into solar factors, are suggesting that the Sun may be the most important factor in determining Earth’s climate.

3) Most of the graphs you see showing a hockey-stick-style, exponential increase in temperature over the last few decades are based on bad data. The problem is that they use surface temperature readings. Now let’s say that temperatures have been recorded in Los Angeles ever since 1850. In 1850, LA was little more than a ranch. Throughout the twentieth century, however, LA exploded into one of the largest cities in the world. For miles surrounding the thermometer, there is now nothing but asphalt, houses, gangstas, and more asphalt. Naturally, the temperature in downtown LA is going to be much higher than the temperature was in the middle of Farmer Fritz’s field due to all the pavement, cars, houses being heated, etc. Now this might be an extreme case, but it demonstrates how the surface temperature readings can be contaminated or produce higher average temperatures as urbanization occurs. Since the late 1970s, we have had data from weather balloons and satellites to compare with the surface temperature data. Unfortunately the graph I found does not have the mean temperature of all three, but you can still approximate it. The rise in global mean temperatures from the satellite and weather balloon data is significantly lower than the surface data. They show only slight rise in the average global temperature since the 1970s. This certainly does not correlate with the increasing CO2 output and the cumulative effect of man-made CO2 in the atmosphere on the other graph!

CO2 increase since 1960

Surface vs. Satellite and Weather Ballon Data

(N.B. how poorly the Satellite and Weather Ballon temperature readings correlate the CO2 increases in the graph above. Also, the spike in all three at the very end is due to the El Nino in 1998.)

4) Atmospheric carbon Dioxide does not correlate to temperature in the way is should if the alarmist models are to be believed. We see this above with the satellite data since the 1970s. It is also evident is the last 100 years. Much of the recorded global warming during that period took place between 1900 and 1940 (surface readings showed about 0.5°C), before much of the sharp increase in man’s CO2 output. As the CO2 output rose from 1940 to 1975, surface reading temperatures dropped 0.2°C. Nor does this appear to be just the case before the 20th century. Some scientist have found from Antarctic ice core data that CO2 follows the same basic pattern as global temperature in the last 500,000 years. However, when they looked more closely, they found that CO2 lagged behind temperature, suggesting that CO2 levels were more of an effect rather than a cause of climate change.

5) Carbon Dioxide is not the main greenhouse gas; water vapor is. Water vapor accounts for 97% of greenhouse gases. Although atmospheric CO2 has increased from 280 ppm to 370 ppm over the last 100 years, it accounts for 0.035 % of the atmosphere. Some scientist believe that an increase of 500 % would not have a major or detrimental effect, compared to the 30 % increase we have already witnessed. If those estimates are correct, perhaps the question might be if we have enough fossil fuels to reach the threshold needed for large-scale climatic change!

6) The computer models you have seen are woefully inadequate. I assume you have all seen the alarming computer generated graphics of the Earth’s surface turning from blue to red. These are usually portrayed on TV in such a manner so as to arouse fear in the viewer thanks to clever use of music and disquieting commentary. They are often displayed to cause an emotional reaction. Unfortunately, these models would be more properly viewed as preliminary sketches for ‘The Incredibles’ than they represent accurate predictions. It is like trying to predict who wins the World Series based on a close examination of the Dodgers. In fact, as a whole they fare no better in past climate predictions than a random set of numbers. Richard Feynmann called our fascination with computer models a disease.

7) Man has little to do with glaciers disappearing. I know, you have seen pictures from 1900 showing glaciers and pictures from this year showing little or no glaciers attached to an article saying that evil Americans are driving away the glaciers and that Polynesians will soon be drowning. Again, these pictures and the stories that accompany them and meant to elicit an emotional reaction. Yes, the glaciers are shrinking. No, this is not time to panic. Glaciers once covered much of North America and carved out most of the features of Scotland. They disappeared without an SUV in sight. In fact, it is now believed that they have shrunk and grown 10 times since the last ice age 10,000 years ago. While activist repent of man’s fossil folly that destroys the glaciers, alpine researchers are uncovering stumps from forests covered not too long ago by the glaciers. Swiss scientists believe that the tongues of alpine glaciers were 300m higher when Hannibal led his hapless elephants into Italy than they are today (see here).

Sheets of ice in Antarctica are breaking off into the ocean, but it is also experiencing more precipitation. While some parts of the Antarctic are increasing in temperature, others are decreasing (Die Eisdecke der Antarktis wächts).

8) Global warming due to mankind is not causing extreme weather. A good example of this was last year’s hurricane season in Florida. When three hit in a month, commentators were suggesting global climate change was to blame. We are all going to die! Well, while we are all going to die, last year’s hurricane season was more the result of a strong Bermuda High than any other factor. We now link any natural disaster with climate change, but many worse ones have occurred in the past. The problem is that like with much of the ‘evidence’ linked with global warming in the popular media and imagination, we see what we want to see. Natural disasters have always and will always occur. Rather than undoing the Industrial and Agricultural revolutions in some Luddite fantasy, the best way for humankind to protect against problems such as droughts and earthquakes is to further those revolutions and the technology and free markets to which they gave rise.

9) Kyoto was just plain silly. The Bush administration did not kill this treaty, it found it stillborn and decided to bury it. The Clinton administration did not submit it to the Senate for ratification because it would have been soundly defeated on a bi-partisan basis. By punting it to the next administration, Clinton gave Gore the campaign issue, Bush the political fallout should he win, and the Republican-lead Senate the fallout should Gore win. Truly a good position for the Democrat party! The treaty itself is a crazy scheme which would not so much limit emissions as redistribute wealth from the western powers to the declining ex-Soviet bloc, while letting exploding countries like China off the hook. Even if Kyoto were fully enacted, it would not be enough if the climate change crowd are correct. Not only that, but many of the European countries are already falling short of their commitments and I think may ultimately scrap the treaty.

10) CO2 is good. It is essential to life on earth. Just as athletes compete better at sea level where their lungs can take in more oxygen, so plants grow better with increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Recent studies show just that occurring.

I could go on, but should stop there for now. The root problem with climate change, as for environmentalism as a whole, is that it is religious in nature. As MIT Meteorologist Richard Lindsen put it: "Do you believe in global warming? That is a religious question. So is the second part: Are you a skeptic or a believer?"

Environmentalism has actually become a caricature of Christianity. It has a Mother Earth, the original sin of industrialization, a humanity which delights in it freedom to sin with a elect few who have heard the gospel of recycling and renewable energy. Most importantly, however, it has its own Eschatology. When the Black Death swept western Europe, one reaction was that of the Flagellants (please, that’s Flagellants) who scourged themselves in public penance in the hopes that propitiating an angry god would assuage the epidemic. Most may now laugh at such behavior or attitudes, but the basic sentiment is still alive today. In order to repent of the sins of industrialization, they call for the economic scourging of the industrialized world. And just like Christian believers, they never live up to their beliefs. They still drive cars, import IPods, suck Lattes and take hot showers. Unfortunately the only thing differentiating environmentalism from Christianity is the lack of a redeemer. This leads me to question whether modern environmentalism’s view of original sin is merely a by-product of the Christian culture of the West in which it developed, as if merely by chance, or does its it come from a more primordial source- a root understanding of the sinfulness of man and his discord with the rest of creation.

At any rate, climatic apocalypticism provides an interesting study in science and society. Scientific studies are filtered through bureaucracies and a press that slants and distorts information to fit their own preconceptions on global warming. Advocates distort information and researchers rarely criticize the more extreme spin as alarm over a potential crisis brings more research money. Alarmists misrepresent scientific opinion in an attempt to manufacture consensus on global climate change as publications with unsympathetic editors refuse dissenting articles on the basis it might prevent political action (see here). Some global warming skeptics have even lost their jobs (see Wildlife groups axe Bellamy as global warming ‘heretic’). One wonders if the global warming alarmists’ ever increasing dogmatism is a response to the growing evidence against their position.

Ultimately I encourage you to research the scientific data for yourselves and to draw your own conclusions. Just be aware that what you have been fed by the press is not necessarily the case, and that they often play upon your emotions. There are numerous scientist at distinguished institutions who dissent from the popular view of global warming, and a large amount of uncertainty in any comprehensive study of world climate. Use energy wisely and ignore the environmental extremists and their doomsday scenarios. In the end, necessity is the mother of all invention: once global demand for fossil fuels outstrips supply, rising energy prices will provide the financial conditions necessary for man to develop the next realistic large-scale source of energy. Until then, the world won’t come to a climatic end.

Some of the dissenters:

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

But I didn't mean to vote for the Viscount Buchanan!

The electoral map of 1708 as seen on the Haggis News Channel.

I met up with the nearly Dr. Campbell today at the national archives in Edinburgh. He is working on an article on the election of the Scottish peers in 1708, following the Union of Scotland and England in 1707. It is a spin off from another article nearly ready for publication on the Earl of Breadalbine. We spent the day looking over a few of records of the election, the only three that he has found in existence. Turns out that no one has looked at them in a very long time. We compared two of the documents, identifying several discrepancies. The documents appear contemporary, which means that they are about seventy years older than the US. The discrepancies of course gave way to election 2000 humour. I reckon they had a map of Scotland with red and blue Tory and Whig lordships. Perhaps given the discrepancies, the Tories should have demanded a recount, appealing to Queen Anne. They could then spend the next four years whining about Whig illegitimacy which, given the Glorious Revolution of twenty years earlier and the rightful Stewart heirs threatening to return from the continent, may not have won them any favour at court (as the Rev. Jackson discovered when his illegitimate child was discovered).

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